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Top 5 National Parks in the  U.S

America is environmentally diverse. Every, if not all states have areas of outstanding natural beauty, visited my millions of people all over the world. When it comes to National Parks in the U.S, people tend to gravitate to the most popular ones such as Yellowstone, but if you take the time to research the lesser known ones, you’ll find peaceful attractions which aren’t clogged with thousands of tourists pushing and shoving each other for a decent photograph. Here are the top 5 National Parks in the U.S that are definitely worth visiting.

Acadia National Park- Maine

This is one of America’s most underrated and stunning national treasures on the rocky coast of Maine, yet, attracting a whopping 2 million visitors a year. The National Park encompasses an outstanding 47,748 acres, including three main sites: Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula and Isle Au Haut. These locations are each unique to their own natural beauty, where both mountains and wildlife coincide with the ocean in a way you could never imagine. The area itself includes not one, but several land uses such as mountains, forests, marshlands and fields, with a diversity of native species. Keep an eye out for all sorts of wildlife from black bears to deer and red squirrels. If you time your visit well enough, you can even spot whales off the coast.

The most popular attraction within the Acadia vicinity is Mount Desert Island, which is the largest island off the coast of Maine. In fact, it is the sixth largest island belonging to the U.S. Here, you can explore the island’s 120 miles of spectacular views in the best way… hiking! If you Trek to the pink granite summit of the Cadillac Mountain at 1,530ft early enough, you’ll be one of the first in the country to view sunrise. This is great thing to boast about when you go back home!

Flickr | RiveredgerYellowstone National Park- Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

This is by far the most visited and famous National Parks of all, not just within the U.S but the whole world. Under Yellowstone National Park lies the biggest super volcano on Earth. This volcano last erupted 640,000 years ago, leaving behind a collapsed giant crater. This sunken delight still provides a unique opportunity for tourism. The electromagnet energy under this hot spot produces a fascinating phenomenon; steam and hot water bubbles out of the earth like a cauldron in a colourful manner. This is the only volcanic location on our planet that produces such a thing! Yellowstone National Park is home to the most active geysers (hot water and steam exploding out of the earth). In fact everywhere you go you will see plumes of steam rising from the fields and edge of lakes. The most famous geyser, “Old Faithful” is located in the same vicinity and erupts every 90 minutes, so don’t forget your camera as this is a once in a lifetime photo moment.

Flickr | Gail K EYosemite National Park- California

You know it’s a big deal when a site is awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. This National Park is the birthplace of rock climbing, being the most famous climbing area in the world. Yosemite attracts 4 million visitors a year and the third oldest National Park in the U.S. This attraction is home to five of the world’s highest waterfalls, the most iconic being Vernal Falls which encompass 317ft from the Yosemite Valley below. If you really want to get up close to this waterfall, the John Muir and Mist Trails offer spectacular views, with enjoyable scenery along the Merced River, probably the most unique view across the whole valley.

Yosemite is much more than a valley, it’s a destination for adventure; it inspires the souls of climbers, campers, photographers and more… For those who are feeling adventurous, rock climbing should be on the agenda. There are climbs for all abilities so you don’t have to be an expert; first time climbers should familiarise themselves with the equipment and safety procedures at the Yosemite Mountaineering school beforehand.

Flickr | High Country AtlantaThe Yosemite Falls usually stops flowing in late August as it is fed by snowmelt; the peak flow is in late May, when high snows in the Sierra Nevada melt. Spring is the best time to visit where you can see the magical waterfalls at their strongest!

Grand Canyon National Park- Arizona

Another National Park, another spectacular destination! It is no coincidence that it is called the ‘Grand’ Canyon; its overwhelming size is 277 miles in length and 18 miles in width! For millions of years, people from all over the world have travelled here to admire the red and orange rocks which border the Colorado River, running through the valley.  It is one of America’s top natural wonders, attracting 5 million visitors per year; making it the most visited National Park in the USA.

The Yavapai Point is the most popular sightseeing viewing point as you can actually see deep into the inner Canyon and Colorado River and an opportunity to take amazing photographs! Of course, there’s more daring ways to see the Canyon too… by hiking! The Grandview Point, Zuni Point and Yuma Point involve a great deal of hiking to get to and take you into untouched nature; Zuni has the most beautiful views of the Red Canyon and definitely the best photograph spot!

Aside from sightseeing from the viewing platforms, there are many other activities such as skydiving, hiking, rafting, camping and helicopter tours. The Grand Canyon helicopter tour should be compulsory for visitors; you can’t get more breath-taking panoramic views!

Flickr | screaming_monkeyHawaii Volcano National Park

You’ll get to experience the heartbeat of a volcanic landscape. Today Hawaii Volcano National Park displays the setting of at least 70 million years of volcanism, where it preserves the natural setting of the Kīlauea volcano and Mauna Loa; the park is also a refuge native plants and animals and a significant link to its human past.

If you have always wanted to see beautiful lava fountains and huge quantities of slow-moving lava flows, this National Park! A perfect observatory for this lava spilling phenomenon is the Jagger Museum Overlook, located at the edge of the Kilauea caldera. The views here are without a doubt spectacular as you are far enough away to observe an actual eruption without being in danger! At night, bright orange magma illuminates the whole landscape, again a perfect photo moment! Within the caldera is a bubbly lava lake which changes in appearance and activity from the magma chamber below. In periods of high volcanic activity, the level of the lake will rise substantially, showing off an illuminous glow. This is actually one of the only lava lakes where visitors can view it so close and not by air. Hawaiian volcanic activity is essentially the most fascinating due to the complexity of the tectonic plates underneath. So why not visit America’s most thrilling National Park to experience nothing but nature!

Flickr | M.J. ScanlonWe’ve seen volcanism, mountains, waterfalls and valleys, all representing America’s best natural sights. U.S National Parks are popular, but somewhat underrated in their extensive landscapes. Next time you head to the states, take time out of the bustling cities and make time for an adventure at one of these National Parks.

By Sophia-Harri Nicholaou - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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